Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Pennsylvania 400

by Brian Polking on August 3, 2012 @ 15:15:04 PDT

 


Jimmie Johnson is picking up right where he left off. One week after kissing the bricks at Indianapolis for the fourth time in his career, the five-time champ topped the charts in the opening practice at Pocono Raceway Friday. Johnson is a two-time winner at the triangle-shaped track, and he has 15 top-10s in 21 total starts. He has finished fourth in his last three starts, and given the similarities between Pocono and Indy, back-to-back wins could be on tap for the No. 48 team. Johnson certainly looks like he is catching fire as the Chase gets closer.

Jimmie Johnson

Ironically, Kyle Busch picked up where he left off, as well. After a second-place run at the Brickyard last weekend, Busch again found himself looking up at Johnson on the leaderboard in the opening practice at Pocono. Although an engine issue knocked him out of the June race at the track, he could make an excellent fantasy play this weekend. Busch has finished third or better in three of his last five starts at Pocono, and he was leading the August race last year until Brad Keselowski got by him on the final restart.

Roush Fenway Racing took care of the rest of the top five, with Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle rounding things out. Edwards and Biffle are both former winners at Pocono, but Kenseth had the best run of the trio at the track in June, finishing seventh. With Edwards struggling to find his groove in 2012, fantasy owners may want to stick with Kenseth and Biffle this weekend. In fact, Biffle has finished eighth and first in the last two August events at Pocono.

Two other names near the top of the leaderboard worth mentioning are Joey Logano and Mark Martin. Both drivers cracked the top 10 in Friday's first practice, and Logano and Martin finished first and second when the Cup Series visited Pocono in June. Logano won the race from the pole and led the most laps, but he needed to bump his way by Martin in the closing laps to do so. As he goes for the season sweep, Logano definitely deserves consideration from fantasy owners. However, Martin looks like the safer play. His runner-up effort in June was his seventh career second-place finish at Pocono.

Brad Keselowski was the only driver to run at least 10 consecutive laps in the opening practice. He not only one this race last season, but he did so while driving on a broken ankle. One of the keys to winning at Pocono is managing track position, and the No. 2 team does that as well as any team in the series these days. Don't be surprised if Keselowski finds a way to contend for the win once again.

In Happy Hour, series point leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. climbed to the top of the charts. After his performance at Pocono in June, fantasy owners have to strongly consider adding him to their rosters this weekend. Junior settled for eighth after pit strategy shuffled him back, but he led the second-most laps of any driver and ran in the top five most of the afternoon. He has finished in the top 10 in his last three starts at Pocono, and a big weekend could be in store.

The rest of the top five looked a lot like it did in the opening session, with Kyle Busch and all three Roush Fenway Racing drivers chasing Junior for the top spot. One name that wasn't near the top of the charts was Denny Hamlin. The four-time Pocono winner has dominated the tricky triangle, but he ranked 27th and 15th in the two sessions Friday. That being said, he did finish fifth at the track in June, and while he has had bad finishes at Pocono, he has never had a bad car. It would a big surprise to see him run poorly Sunday.

While Hamlin deserves the benefit of the doubt, fantasy owners may want to avoid Paul Menard. He does have four straight top-15 finishes at Pocono, including back-to-back top-10s, but he wrecked his primary car in the opening practice. He finished the first session ranked 28th on the charts, and he only improved to 20th in his backup car in Happy Hour. Unless he really turns things around in qualifying, owners may want to look elsewhere for their sleeper pick this weekend.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Make Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard
177.441
50.721
21
2
17
Matt Kenseth Ford Zest
176.974
50.855
22
3
16
Greg Biffle Ford 3M
176.723
50.927
18
4
18
Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's
176.564
50.973
5
5
99
Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal
176.391
51.023
12
6
1
Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops/Allstate
176.173
51.086
25
7
56
Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts
176.167
51.088
19
8
24
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger
176.125
51.100
30
9
51
Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services
176.108
51.105
22
10
48
Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's
176.067
51.117
23
11
55
Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine
175.960
51.148
14
12
15
Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy
175.888
51.169
9
13
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet Target
175.850
51.180
14
14
9
Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley
175.785
51.199
19
15
11
Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground
175.425
51.304
27
16
2
Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite
175.275
51.348
17
17
39
Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation/Quicken Loans
175.206
51.368
27
18
22
Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell/Pennzoil
175.142
51.387
5
19
78
Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row/Farm American
175.016
51.424
21
20
27
Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards/Serta
174.791
51.490
21
21
26
Josh Wise Ford MDS Transport
174.757
51.500
7
22
31
Jeff Burton Chevrolet Enersys/Odyssey Battery
174.656
51.530
21
23
29
Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser
174.540
51.564
23
24
10
David Reutimann Chevrolet TMone.com
174.311
51.632
22
25
5
Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance
174.236
51.654
22
26
14
Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot "Back to School"
173.863
51.765
23
27
43
Aric Almirola Ford Automotive Lift Institute
173.638
51.832
24
28
13
Casey Mears Ford GEICO
173.517
51.868
9
29
20
Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot
173.210
51.960
31
30
19
Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical
173.104
51.992
7
31
30
David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports
172.894
52.055
9
32
83
Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King/Dr Pepper
172.592
52.146
18
33
87
Joe Nemechek Toyota AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves
172.586
52.148
11
34
37
J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Max Q Motorsports
172.229
52.256
5
35
91
Reed Sorenson Ford Plinker Tactical
172.117
52.290
9
36
23
Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe
172.018
52.320
9
37
93
Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King/Dr Pepper
172.005
52.324
23
38
47
Bobby Labonte Toyota Scott Products
171.966
52.336
12
39
98
Mike Skinner Ford TRAQM.com
171.680
52.423
4
40
33
Stephen Leicht Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com
171.005
52.630
11
41
38
David Gilliland Ford ModSpace
170.992
52.634
32
42
34
David Ragan Ford Taco Bell
169.843
52.990
26
43
36
Tony Raines Chevrolet @TMone/CRM Hiring Veterans
168.903
53.285
8
44
32
Jason White Ford Zaxby's
168.79
53.322
18

10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
48
Jimmie Johnson
7
16
172.826
2
55
Mark Martin
1
10
172.546
3
39
Ryan Newman
5
14
171.761
4
34
David Ragan
12
21
168.967

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
174.290
51.638
21
2
18
Toyota
M&M's
173.994
51.726
36
3
99
Ford
Fastenal
173.967
51.734
20
4
17
Ford
Zest
173.950
51.739
20
5
16
Ford
3M
173.772
51.792
26
6
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
173.755
51.797
21
7
20
Toyota
The Home Depot
173.621
51.837
22
8
88
Chevrolet
Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard
173.615
51.839
21
9
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
173.548
51.859
28
10
13
Ford
GEICO
173.444
51.890
7
11
26
Ford
MDS Transport
173.214
51.959
7
12
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Farm American
173.130
51.984
24
13
43
Ford
Automotive Lift Institute
172.994
52.025
24
14
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
172.951
52.038
41
15
15
Toyota
5-hour Energy
172.934
52.043
37
16
19
Toyota
Plinker Tactical
172.881
52.059
4
17
39
Chevrolet
Haas Automation/Quicken Loans
172.874
52.061
25
18
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
172.798
52.084
19
19
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot "Back to School"
172.748
52.099
24
20
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
172.612
52.140
22
21
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser
172.596
52.145
19
22
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Allstate
172.510
52.171
24
23
9
Ford
Stanley
172.384
52.209
26
24
31
Chevrolet
Enersys/Odyssey Battery
172.305
52.233
27
25
38
Ford
ModSpace
172.097
52.296
8
26
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil
171.910
52.353
35
27
11
Toyota
FedEx Ground
171.828
52.378
22
28
27
Chevrolet
Menards/Serta
171.828
52.378
20
29
42
Chevrolet
Target
171.713
52.413
20
30
30
Toyota
171.703
52.416
10
31
34
Ford
Taco Bell
171.533
52.468
11
32
98
Ford
TRAQM.com
171.438
52.497
10
33
87
Toyota
AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves
171.311
52.536
4
34
47
Toyota
Scott Products
171.226
52.562
23
35
91
Ford
Plinker Tactical
171.116
52.596
7
36
37
Chevrolet
170.976
52.639
5
37
93
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
170.973
52.640
20
38
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
170.882
52.668
19
39
10
Chevrolet
TMone.com
170.765
52.704
15
40
23
Chevrolet
North Texas Pipe
170.432
52.807
5
41
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
169.965
52.952
11
42
33
Chevrolet
Little Joes Autos.com
169.367
53.139
7
43
36
Chevrolet
@TMone/CRM Hiring Veterans
169.278
53.167
8
44
32
Ford
Zaxby's
-
-
-

10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
2
30
39
171.522

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About Brian Polking

Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.

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